Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Interview Process – A few more key-takeaways

Let’s jump right in today…

Third takeaway – There’s no such thing as the perfect candidate.

If you can get beyond that, then it quickly becomes about finding a good fit. I can make a list of technical requirements for a position, and someone can show me a list of certifications that they have to meet my list, but at the end of the day, it’s about finding someone who is a good fit. Put a different way – you can train a good Engineer – or good Technical Person - to do almost anything technical. But having the right attitude makes all the different in the world. Find that good mix of technical talent, and attitude and you’ve met that “good fit” criteria.

Expanding on that point even further for a second, I would much rather hire someone who might be lacking a in a few technical areas, but has a great attitude, than someone who projects themselves as knowing everything about everything. In fact, a candidate with less technical background – or maybe even a different technical background than what I need right at this second, might be – in fact has been in the past – a more preferential candidate. For instance, when I put out a job add I don't list 10 years of experience as a requirement for anything ... in fact, I'm very general with my experience requirement because I want to see resumes, I want to talk to people, and I want to find a good fit.

Fourth takeaway – Don’t make people feel stupid (and don’t be arrogant).

I think these two go hand-in-hand, and I admit there’s a balancing act here. You want to push a candidate to get a feel for their technical depth, as well as to see how they respond when they don’t know the answer and are under pressure. That said, a “good fit” candidate shouldn’t have all of the answers. No one knows everything about everything. So if you’re interviewing candidates for a Network Administrator position, don’t expect a deep background in something unrelated – or only marginally related.

I remember going on an interview a while back, where the interviewer just slammed me for not having the answer to a very specific – and obscure problem. One learning that came out of that for me was that sometimes “I don’t know” is a good answer. If someone doesn’t know the answer, but explains how they’d go about finding the answer – proceed. Or let it go. Consider your objective met in learning that they don’t have the answer to question “X”. But pay attention to how they handled question X – and handled not knowing the answer to question X. If they get it wrong, press them on it, get them to ask you questions. But you shouldn’t be making a candidate feel stupid.

More to come...

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